There’s always a huge relief for F1 fans when a new season finally gets underway after months of suffering off-season blues. So imagine how bad it would be to wait all that time, get hyped up for the start and enjoy that rare kind of excitement you can only feel when the lights go out and the race starts, only for a multi-car accident to stop the race moments later, delaying the wait even more. Damn, it’s making me frustrated just imagining it.
That’s exactly what happened in 1979 at the Argentine Grand Prix. At the first corner (a super-fast S-bend) Jody Scheckter and John Watson made contact, triggering a chain reaction of collisions which collected seven drivers – Scheckter, Watson, Mario Andretti, Patrick Tambay, Arturo Merzario, Didier Pironi, and Nelson Piquet.
Scheckter’s car was hit multiple times and he was fortunate to come away with only a bruised hand, though circuit doctors prevented him from taking the restart. Likewise Nelson Piquet, who’d broken a bone in his foot during the melee. Merzario and Pironi also couldn’t make the restart and were joined on the sidelines by Tambay as the working bits of his McLaren were put on Watson’s car.
Given the chaotic start, the race itself was a bit of a bore-fest. Pole-sitter Jacques Laffite made a duff start but was soon regained the lead and cruised to a straightforward victory for Ligier whilst local man Carlos Reutemann finished in second for Lotus.